A two week contract – Working at LiquorLand


The visa that I got for New Zealand was a Workers Holiday scheme Visa – a visa that allows the bearer to live and work in the country for a full year. Thus, when a friend offered me an interview at one of the liquor stores near the flat I was staying at, I jumped on it. The work itself wasn’t really the normal for me, since I was more used to desk jobs or a position in front of a milling machine, but I was actually pretty excited to get a chance to work a “manual labor” type of job for once. Upside, it meant that I wouldn’t need to pay for a gym membership while working. And the pay wasn’t bad either: minimum wage for New Zealand, but that meant $13.20 an hour, versus the simple $6.75 minimum in the United States. Yeah… I wasn’t too sad about taking it.

The work itself was pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be: moving beers from the back into the main freezer room, stocking up the store, and helping the “real” employees out with whatever they needed.

A few short stories from my two weeks working there:

“A soul-crushing job”

One day, late in the morning, my Boss Paul came up to be with a grimace on his face. Now Paul is usually a pretty cheerful guy, so I was immediately concerned that I had stocked something wrong, or broken a bottle by accident.

Paul – “Ben, I have a soul-crushing job for you, I’m afraid”

Ben – “Wha… what is it?”

Paul – “Well, I just got a call from Three Guys (a brewery in New Zealand that produces some very fine single-bottle craft beers), and it turns out that one of their batches used bad yeast. We need to clear it out and send the bottles back”

Ben – “Ohh, ok. Want me to go through the stock and pull them out?”

Paul – “no… we already did that. I need you to uncap them, pour the beers out, and wash out the bottles. Sorry… I told you its soul crushing”

Ben – “Nnnnnnnooooooooooo!!!”

And that’s how I got stuck pouring a crate of beer down the drain for nearly half an hour.

“Breaking down the doors”

I consider myself a fairly mechanically-inclinded person. So when I heard a grinding noise while I was working the rolling door at the back loading dock, I quickly assessed the situation and figured that, with a bit more pressure, the door would be able to break past the blockage and finish closing. That was a bad hypothesis.

Two hours later, Paul, the second manager Ted, and I were still working on fixing the door. Since that door was a rolling door, it worked by staying in a specific channel on each side… and by trying to force it downwards I had popped it out of the channel. And now… it didn’t want to go back in. We had tried slowly lowering it, tried raising it halfway and trying to wedge it back in, and we had even tried bashing it into place with a hammer. Though I’ll admit, I think that the bashing it option was done mostly to relieve frustration on Paul’s part.

We finally got the door back in its track by raising it all the way, then raising it even higher with the manual control chain, and then slowly lowering it back into its channels. And the final piece to the repair? Adding a little note onto the side of the door, reading;

“Truckers AND BEN are not allowed to use this door.”

“A most excellent hat”

I now have a new hat, thanks to Paul. Its a pretty nice dark green snowboarder beanie that he had extra, from an Export Gold promotional. Originally it had a little beer logo on it, but Emma was able to snip it off for me, so now it just looks like your average, totally rad beanie. With a sun visor. Yes, Ben + Beanie = awesome.

“Driving of the forklifts”

One of the first things that Paul asked me during the interview for the position was whether or not I knew how to drive a forklift. I had to admit that I did not, but I qualified myself by saying that I’d be quite willing to learn. Unfortunately Paul said that wouldn’t be necessary, and that I’d most likely be staying in the back hauling stacks of beer around instead. Which I did, all the while staring longingly at the forklift.

Thankfully for my curiosity and desire to learn random new things, Ted and I were on duty one evening where there was absolutely nothing to do. Paul had gone home already, Blair was watching the till, and we were just hanging out and being bored. So when I asked if Ted could teach me a thing or two on the lift, he jumped at the chance to actually do something.

Ted set up a little obstacle course for me in the back warehouse, and went over the basic controls of the lift with me. Forward, reverse, tines up, down, etc. After I had played around with the basics he started me in on the obstacles – learning how to turn on a dime (thanks to the steering coming from the back tires), how to lift pallets, and how to make sure not to run the forks through the beer. It was a fun little course that he took me through, and while I’m definitely not the best driver of a forklift… I can at least say that I know the basics, and could take over in an emergency if need be.

“A flying sign and a missed opportunity”

This is something that I don’t understand. Just a small situation, but such an amazing example of missing out on a chance for great PR, and turning this good opportunity into a great way to loose customers.

See… a few months back, a woman had parked out in front of the shop and her car had been damaged by a sign that had been blown by the wind. Now, this was not legally the fault of the store owner, since

the sign being blown over by the wind was an “act of god”, and was not the due to a failure or mistake on the part of the store. However, the repair bill was only $300. If the owner had told the woman that he was not liable for the damage, but was willing to pay it anyways, she would have gone home, told her friends about how helpful he was, and good word of mouth would have spread. Indeed it would have, since we learned that her husband was extremely active in the community.

Instead, the owner decided to ignore the problem for two months, and then vehemently denied any obligation to the woman. He even threatened to ban her from the store if she continued coming by, asking about a settlement. Now, instead of talking glowingly about the store to their friends, the people are taking the shop to small claims court. Its quite unlikely that they will win, but the lawyers costs alone, ignoring the owners time, will amount to more than the $300 she wanted. And, they definitely won’t hold back when telling their friends about how much of a dick the store was. Great.

So take a nice and simple lesson here – if you’re a business owner… play nice with your customers. And if the universe gives you an opportunity to make some good karma with the community… take the chance, burn some money, and get in on their good side. You never know when you might need their help in return.

Earthquakes, incoming!

So, as a previous entry read, Christchurch was hit with three major earthquakes while I worked at LiquorLand. Frst a 5.8, then a 5.3, and finally a 6.0, all of which shook us pretty impressively. There wasn’t much damage overall, though the 6.0 did knock over quite a few good craft beers and an entire stack of mediocre beers, we didn’t loose too many spirits or wines. In fact, one of the wine bottles actually jumped out of its shelf and landed (undamaged) in another shelf about half a meter (1.5 ft) away. A CLOSED SHELF. Yeah… still not exactly sure how that one happened.

But one good part can be taken from the quakes, and that’s a quote from the manager Paul.  Right when the third quake starts to hit, I hear him roar,


Thats right… Paul’s first reaction, literally a second into a major earthquake, was to tell the quake to fuck off. That’s the way to be.

One response »

  1. Saving the best story for last. I love that reaction. So you’re not working there anymore? Thanks for the call Sunday, though I apologize for ignoring it since I didn’t recognize the number. Now I know – strange number = probably Ben.

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